France moves closer to making abortion a constitutional right

Lower house approves resolution to guarantee access to ‘the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy’

France has moved a step closer to becoming the first country in the world to enshrine abortion as a constitutional right, after lawmakers approved a resolution in the lower house to guarantee access to “the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy”.

In a rare cross-party move, members of parliament from the left’s La France Insoumise party and Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition agreed on the wording of a clause that could be added to the constitution. It read: “The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy.”

In the 557-member national assembly, 337 lawmakers voted for and 32 against, while 18 abstained.

“It’s a big step … but it’s just the first step,” said Sacha Houlié, from Macron’s Renaissance party. The resolution must now be voted on by the Senate, the upper house, which has a majority on the right and voted down a first proposal last month.

Mathilde Panot, the parliamentary leader of the left’s La France Insoumise party, which proposed the resolution, said it was about protecting legalised abortion against any kind of “regression”. She told the house: “It would just take a political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be questioned.”

Several parties in France, from the left to centrists, began pushing for abortion rights to be written into the constitution after the US supreme court’s decision in June to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling, which recognised a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalised it nationwide.

The far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally is the biggest single opposition party in parliament, this week called the move “totally misplaced”, arguing that abortion rights were not under threat in France. She missed the vote on Thursday “for medical reasons”, a spokesperson said.

An Ifop poll for the Fondation Jean-Jaurès thinktank this summer found that 81% of people from across the French political spectrum wanted abortion rights to be better protected under the constitution.

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